Question: Why did Executive Order #9981 Only Desegregate All-Black Units When Asian-American Military Units Were Also Segregated?

I don’t suppose Asians/Pacific Islanders were allowed to serve in the armed forces in World War II? Wait, let me check the facts!

According to some preliminary research (Google!):

Americans of Asian and Pacific descent participated in military campaigns, dating back to 1763 when Filipino sailors and crewmen deserted from Spanish ships and established settlements in Mexico and the soon-to-be Spanish colony of Louisiana.

  • During World War II, Americans of Filipino descent were the largest Asian-American group in the armed forces. There were two large units stationed in the Phillipines and staffed mostly with Filipino enlisted personnel—the Philippine Scouts and the Philippine Division. Both of these units were destroyed and their members killed, captured or dispersed when the Japanese invaded the Philippines in January 1940.

  • During World War II, about 40 percent of the Chinese serving in the U.S. military were not native-born citizens. Many took advantage of the citizenship promise in 1943 after the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943 was repealed. About 75 percent of the Chinese Americans didn’t serve in segregated units, but Japanese and Filipino Americans did.

  • During the opening months of World War II, almost 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of them citizens of the United States, were forced out of their homes and into detention camps established by the U.S. government. Many would spend the next three to four years living under armed guard, behind barbed wire.

  • Americans of Japanese descent were initially denied the opportunity to serve in the military during World War II. When they were finally allowed to serve, members of the all-Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team fought in Italy, France and then Italy again from June 1944 to the end of the war in August 1945. The unit never exceeded 4,500 men in size, but its members received 18,000 individual decorations.

  • Eric Ken Shinseki, a Japanese American and retired U.S Army four-star general, is currently serving as the 7th United States secretary of veterans affairs.

(Source: U.S. Army Center of Military History) [see here]

President Truman’s  1948 Executive Order 9981 desegregated (nominally) all-Black units.  The full text of the Order is here.

According to the US Army Center of Military History and Wikipedia, 40% of Chinese-Americans who served in the US military during WWII were non-native born.  Also, 75% of Chinese-American soldiers served in non-segregated (read: mostly White) units/regiments.  This is in stark contrast to Japanese-American and Filipino-American soldiers who served in largely segregated units.

I’m curious now- why did Executive Order 9981 only desegregate all-Black units (even if it was nominally)??

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